The issue of net neutrality has become a contentious topic, causing a divide among politicians. In simple terms, net neutrality is the belief that everyone should have equal access to the internet and its content. The legislation surrounding this concept aims to prevent internet service providers from charging more for faster service or from blocking or slowing down certain content. These laws also classify the internet as a public telecommunication utility, meaning it should be regulated by the government. While federal net neutrality laws exist, some states have taken matters into their own hands and implemented their own rules.
President Biden has tried to reintroduce net neutrality by nominating Gigi Sohn, a pro-net neutrality candidate, to the Federal Communications Commission. However, Sohn withdrew from consideration due to personal attacks. Several states, such as California, Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, have passed their own net neutrality legislation.
The history of net neutrality dates back to 2005 when the Federal Communication Commission first established the principles behind it. However, it was not until 2015, under President Obama, that the Open Internet Order granted the FCC the authority to enforce these principles. This order classified internet service providers as telecommunications services and implemented rules to prevent them from interfering with legal content or charging extra for better service. In 2017, under President Trump, the FCC repealed these rules, leading to legal battles over the rights of states to impose their own net neutrality regulations. California’s net neutrality bill faced numerous challenges, but the legal fight was eventually dropped in 2022. President Biden has attempted to revive federal net neutrality regulation through executive orders and nominations, but has faced significant obstacles.
Opponents of net neutrality argue that allowing internet service providers to charge different prices for different services would encourage innovation and investment in expanding bandwidth. They claim that market pressure and the oversight of the Federal Trade Commission already ensure net neutrality practices. Some also predict that net neutrality rules could lead to higher costs for consumers, suggesting that providers may start charging based on the number of users, ultimately forcing everyone to pay more.
On the other hand, proponents of net neutrality believe that it guarantees equal access to the internet for all, regardless of wealth or status. It also prevents internet service providers from controlling the information consumers can access. Net neutrality laws can prevent rich companies from purchasing faster internet speeds and stop providers from exempting their own content from data caps, which levels the playing field for smaller, independent companies.
In Europe, there is a debate around whether large U.S. tech firms like Google, Netflix, and Facebook should be taxed to fund the maintenance and expansion of the region’s telecommunication network. Supporters argue that those responsible for generating internet traffic should contribute to the infrastructure costs. However, opponents worry that this could incentivize companies to disregard net neutrality principles and turn to non-EU internet service providers, potentially harming the security and quality of internet services.